The Jena Six

The Jena Six

I reproduce Vox Ex Machina’s fine essay below:

Looking for Justice in Jena, La.

Jena, La., has taken a leaf from the book of Paris, Tex. In yet another case, black teenagers have been arrested in a case of teens being teens. In yet another case, white teens were not given the same treatment.

White students at a local high school hung nooses from a tree when black students began sitting under it; it had traditionally been a tree used for shade by white students. They weren’t punished for it. When black students protested, the local D.A. told them that he could “make (their) lives disappear with a stroke of (his) pen.”

Fights broke out between the students. No white student was ever punished.

In the first weekend of December, a Black student was assaulted by a group of white students, and a white graduate of Jena High School threatened several Black students with a shotgun. The following Monday, white students taunted the Black student who was assaulted over the weekend, and one of the white students was beaten up.

Within hours, six Black students were arrested. “I think the district attorney is pinning it on us to make an example of us,” said Purvis. “In Jena, people get accused of things they didn’t do a lot.”

Soon after, their parents discovered that these students were facing attempted murder charges. “The courtroom, the whole back side, was filled with police officers,” Tina Jones, Bryant’s mother, recalls. “I guess they thought maybe when they announced what the charges were, we were gonna go berserk or something.” [Full story]

The students face charges on conspiracy to commit murder as well, and face up to 100 years in prison. For a high school fight. Because administrators didn’t take action against the racists who hung nooses from a tree, or against white students harassing and starting fights with black students for months.

This is why schools need to shut down bullying. And this is exactly why they won’t. Why stop bullying when it’s against students of color? Who cares if bullying causes the next Seung Cho, or Jeffrey Weise, or Kenneth Eng, or Jena Six?

After Columbine, there were anti-bullying initiatives, people speaking out, shouting out against bullying, against those poor boys who were so tortured that they had to shoot people. After Virginia Tech, have people spoken about the bullies Seung Cho faced? Not much. One mainstream article talked about it, but most have focused on his mental illness, his immigration status, his perceived motivations, how weird students at Virginia Tech found him, his plays.

Bullying leads to violence. Bullying leads to hatred. Bullying leads to fighting, and protests.

But when it comes to students of color, instead of cracking down on bullying, school administrators let it go. And then they call in police to interrogate 12-year-old girls or to arrest six black students, because the precious white bullies couldn’t be at fault. They’re white (or they’re popular, or they’re Christian … but mostly they’re white).

And then you have people like the Jena Six, who defend themselves from violence and get arrested for it, or Kenneth Eng, spewing hatred and laughing at violence, or like Jeffrey Weise or Seung Cho, who snap and take out as many as they can.

And then come the excuses.

Why don’t we try something new this time? How about the mainstream media, and the mainstream bloggers, and the mainstream protesters and legislators and law enforcement … how about you all WAKE UP?

Because your system is broken beyond belief, and it’s time you all started noticing that.

The Jena Six

Black and Latino Bodies Politic at War in Lynwood, Los Angeles

The long awaited LA Times article on the state of affairs between Latinos and Blacks in Los Angeles is out and it confirms what many have known all along. Racial enmity is tearing at the city’s seams. The limited distribution of resources has made the two groups fight with each other while leaving structural inequalities for both intact.

Blogger coverage: “L.A. is going to blow again, and its not going to be pretty, a race riot that will make the ones of the 60s look like a day in Disneyland Park.”


Population: 61,945

Latino: 69%

Black: 22%

Other: 9%


Population: 72,426

Latino: 87%

Black: 9%

Other: 4%

Black and Latino Bodies Politic at War in Lynwood, Los Angeles

Black Bodies and Unequal Justice in Jena, La.

“The tree was on the side of the campus that, by long-standing tradition, had always been claimed by white students, who make up more than 80 percent of the 460 students. But a few of the school’s 85 black students had decided to challenge the accepted state of things and asked school administrators whether they, too, could sit in the tree’s shade.”

That “black students” have to ask where they can sit for shade is disturbingly reminiscent of Jim Crow era racist practices and laws meant to deprive Blacks of their civil rights through institutional and quotidian obeisance to whites. Is deep south Louisiana still in the murky waters of uncivilized race-hatred? Yes.

” ‘Sit wherever you want,’ school officials told them. The next day, the nooses were hanging from the branches.”

And then a past of ignorance and racism emerged untouched by reason or state protection…

See Howard Witt’s story “Racial demons rear heads” in Chicago Tribune.

Black Bodies and Unequal Justice in Jena, La.

The Trouble with Diversity

For anyone working on the politics of race of late one thing is clear: diversity is being attacked as both a concept and a practice. Just outside Philadelphia, in the town of Bensalem, there is an emerging uproar over the recruitment of Latino and Black officers to the police force because, it is claimed, such a practice is a thinly veiled guise for racism and discrimination. The claim comes at the heels of the township’s hiring of a firm to attract and recruit Latino and Black officers. According to a recent editorial, “this use of public money advances racial discrimination under the polite guise of diversity.” The piece goes on to note that the police force is comprised of of 102 officers. Of these, one is Black and the other is Latino. Hmm? Two “diverse” officers in a police force of 102? In a county where the racial demographic does not bear out the paucity of racial and ethnic diversity in the force, it never occurs to the writer that the combined Black and Latino population of almost 16% in Buck’s county has a history. A history that makes it possible to see “diversity” as a racist practice.

I’ve just finished reading Walter Benn Michaels’ The Trouble with Diversity and will write a post on it soon.

The Trouble with Diversity